Oxygen is crucial to human survival. Whilst many of us may survive days without food, lack of oxygen for a few minutes could lead to death. Without the proper oxygen flow throughout the entire body, your organs begin to operate less efficiently leading to health problems.

Proper breathing is essential during exercise. A good breathing pattern ensures the flow of oxygen to the working muscles. Breathing incorrectly during exercise could lead to injuries. Incorrect breathing during exercise includes holding your breath, breathing too shallow or breathing too fast. Holding your breath during exercise allows the blood pressure to go to your head. This can cause dizziness, light-headiness, and headaches. This is a result of the muscles not being able to relax. 

Breathing properly during exercise would not only help you in completing your workout but helps you in completing the workout more efficiently and losing more weight in the process. Through proper breathing, your muscles can relax and open up which results in improved strength, speed, and performance. In simple terms, learning how to breathe correctly while you exercise can change your entire experience during working out.

Proper breathing technique varies, depending on the exercise.

Cardiovascular Exercise

When you are walking, running, biking, or doing any other form of cardiovascular exercise, try to breathe deeply. Breathing may be done through your nose, mouth, or a combination of the two. Ideally, you should do “belly” or diaphragmatic breathing which is quite different from the shallow breathing you normally do while at work or in a rest position. Belly breathing keeps your blood pressure low and allows for better oxygen delivery to your muscles. To do it, simply breathe in deeply enough so your belly (not your chest) rises, then falls as you exhale. Experts advise a 3:2 ratio of inhalations to exhalations while doing cardio exercises such as running, aerobics, and swimming. This means that you need to inhale for 3 seconds and exhale for 2 seconds in order to get oxygen to all your muscles and clear your body of carbon dioxide with each breath. 

Strength Training

While doing strength exercises, for example weight lifting, you should exhale during the exertion portion of each repetition. For example when doing a sit-up, you exhale during the sit-up and inhale as you lay down. When lifting weights, you exhale as you lift and inhale as you bring the weight back down. Breathing properly allows you to better release all the carbon dioxide in the body and oxygenate your muscles while working out. It also helps you to prevent problems that can occur during exertion like high blood pressure, hernia and blood vessel strain.

Flexibility Training

During activities, like stretching and yoga, you’ll need to breathe more slowly and deeply than when doing cardiovascular activities. Again, this keeps the blood pressure from rising and ensures enough blood is flowing to the muscles that need it. It also helps flush toxins (like carbon dioxide and lactic acid) out of your muscles, which means you’ll experience a better stretch. Many people tend to hold their breath during stretching or to take short and shallow breaths, but ideally, you should take deep, relaxed diaphragmatic breaths. Experts recommend inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth when stretching. 

Learn to breathe properly during exercise and you will enjoy a number of benefits, including:

Avoiding getting dizzy while you work out

No more hyperventilating during strenuous exercise

Improving your athletic performance

Burning more fat

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